When she entered the room, internationally acclaimed Filipino singer, Charice Pempengco, had the bearing of a veteran disguised in the clothes of a little girl. Her steps were loosely measured, her arms swung modestly by her side and her face bore the countenance of someone who no longer needs to prove her worth. But in the narrow hall that led to her private room, as cameras began flashing from every corner, one could not miss a fleeting look of awe the took over her face; a quick reminder that she is still just a 16-year-old girl.
“Do I still look young?” she said during her interview with The Manila Times. “I already look old.” Even as she joked, she possessed a distinct degree of maturity—laughing in such a collected manner. And the dauntless modulation of her voice is a testament to her calm confidence. “But I do like what a lot of people say,” she added. “Young but with a big voice! Natutuwa naman ako dun.” “That makes me glad.”
Of course, since her meteoric rise back in 2007, being hailed as a vocal powerhouse is merely a pat on the back compared with the inspiring monikers she received over the years. After gaining international fame when one of her earlier admirers posted her performance videos on YouTube, she has been labeled as an “Internet sensation.” After crossing oceans to captivate the likes of TV personality Ellen DeGeneres, she has been called “a phenomenon.” And after she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, after she made such an impact that Winfrey herself was compelled to call legendary producer David Foster, Pempengco was dubbed as “the most talented girl in the world.” The later, however, is a title she casually refuted with sophistication.
“I’m not really that good, said Pempengco who smiled as though she was offering an apology. “I’m a singer and I know how to sing. People say that I’m good. But I’m not a professional singer like Regine Velasquez or Celine Dion. I just love to perform. I just love to sing.”
An early beginning
Pempengco was born on May 10, 1992, in the city of Cabuyao, Laguna. At the age of 3, she was shrugged out of innocence when her father, enraged and seemingly inconsolable, attacked her mother, Raquel. According to Pempengco, as reported by the website of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she watched her father beating and choking her mother. When the argument escalated, he then grabbed a shotgun and threatened their lives.
“My dad was about to shoot my mom,” she said “and I couldn’t do anything.”
Fortunately, their neighbors heard the commotion and were able to break down the door giving Pempengco, her brother, Carl, and her mother a chance to escape.
“We left my dad,” she stated on the website. “And after that, I never saw him again. And I don’t want to see him.”
But the arduous trials of her childhood did not stop there as financial problems followed Pempengco and her family. As reported by The National in an article entitled “Voice of the Future,” her mother could remember times when she had to feed Pempengco and her brother noodles three times a day before she found work.
A silver lining, however, appeared for their family when, at the age of four, Pempengco’s mother discovered her daughter’s gift for the very first time. “She thought the radio [was] playing,” Pempengco shared on the Oprah website. “She went to the living room, and she saw me singing and she was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She’s singing.”
The first time Pempengco decided to enter competitions, her mother was already working for 16 hours a day, six days a week at a garment factory. After years of financial woes, Pempengco had to help out her family by signing up for more than 80 competitions which included the likes of town fiestas and several vocal contests on TV. Eventually, she was able to use her contest winnings to help her mother pay for an apartment.
“I’m just singing for my mom now,” she stated on the Oprah website, “I didn’t help her before. That’s why I want to help her now.”
Even then, with those simple words, she already possessed the maturity that shrouds her tender age; an iron padding that would ultimately allow her to weather events that came after.
In 2005, at the age of 12, Pempengco joined an ABS-CBN talent show called Little Big Star. While she was eliminated at the early going, she was brought back as a wildcard contender and she was able to work her way to become a finalist. But regardless of her penchant for being a consistent top scorer, she only finished in third place with eventual ABS-CBN talent, Sam Concepcion taking the win.
After minor appearances on the local TV shows and commercials, she fell back into obscurity for a couple of years with a hard earned lesson that she carries up to this day.
“When I lost at The Little Big Star, that’s when I felt that I still need to persevere if I am to get what I want. The problem with some people is that when they want something, they want it now. They immediately want to be on top. But in reality, they have to go through a lot of things to get there. They have to be patient enough to try and try until they succeed,” she says.
And two years appeared enough of a waiting period for Pempengco when an avid fan, Dave Duenas, under the name FalseVoice, started posting her videos on YouTube.
According to an interview by Phil Bolsta in bolstablog.wordpress.com, Duenas got the idea to post Pempengco’s video in 2006 when he noticed a video in YouTube’s “Most Viewed” section. The video was the America’s Got Talent audition of an 11-year-old singer named Bianca Ryan.
“I didn’t plan to upload Charice’s videos on YouTube,” Duenas told Bolsta. “It’s just that I saw Bianca Ryan’s video after she had just won America’s Got Talent. I was fairly new to YouTube back then and I told myself, I’d like to post an amazing video that would generate a lot of hits . . . Charice’s name popped into my head because I got goose bumps all over my body when I first saw her singing on TV. So in August 2006 I posted a video of her singing I Will Always Love You from Little Big Star.”
The video, however, was not an overnight sensation. Duenas had to invest a measure of effort to build awareness of it.
“I remember posting comments to every video that I viewed, telling people to go check out Charice’s video,” Duenas told Bolsta. “It took some time, but eventually the video generated a lot of hits.”
But even after garnering a millions views, it wasn’t initially enough to re-open the doors for Pempengco’s career. Given her youth and the power of her voice, her talents came under intense scrutiny with a number of YouTube users claiming that she is lip-syncing. Such suspicions however were negated when Duenas posted more videos including an a capella rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Eventually, the videos attracted the attention of Ellen DeGeneres’ producers which ended up with her performing live in December 2007. This was followed by an appearance on Oprah as part of the show’s “World’s Most Talented Kids” series which ultimately allowed her not just to slip back into the lime light, but to burst into it at a global scale.
“I first started to feel that I’m really getting to live my dream when I was invited to Korea,” she shared with The Times. A slight sparkle drew out the youth from her softened eyes. “As it went on, I felt it even more. Of course, there have been a lot of highlights. But right now, I have to say that the one that tops all those highlights is the time when I got to sing on stage with Celine Dion.”
Pempengco recalled how she anxiously entered the Madison Square Garden. The raucous of thousands screaming for someone, she remembered, were enough to belittle anyone. But she was completely disarmed when she found out that they were screaming for her, and it was her face that was shown on the big screen.
“They’re foreigners!” she told The Times. “Those were my first thoughts. They were foreigners and they were cheering for me. And I was introduced as a Filipina. That really made me happy.”
Besides Dion, Pempengco also got the opportunity to sing with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who gave her another title by dubbing her as a “flush force of nature.” She also got to perform with current hit makers like the Jonas Brothers, Josh Groban, and former American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee. More importantly, her performance back in 2008 at David Foster’s tribute concert, Hitman: David Foster and Friends at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, bought over 10,000 people to their feet leading Foster to proclaim that “a star is born.”
On to a bigger stage
Now on the process of making her first international album, Pempengco has been taken under Foster’s wing. When asked what it was like to be working with the renowned “star-maker,” she simply grinned as if once again hearing the name of a very close friend.
“David Foster . . . is Daddy,” she said. “We kid around a lot. He asked me what I thought about him and I told him that he’s like a father to me.”
Foster who is known for producing a number of records for stars like Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand and Cher is currently producing Pempengco’s first international album. He has also taken the role of a mentor and a father figure.
“He is really nice and he’s a perfectionist,” Pempengco told The Times. “He wants my performances to be flawless. He wants my recordings to be great. The only thing that he doesn’t oversee is my fashion sense. That’s his girlfriend’s department. He is also quite funny so whenever I do recordings with him I never get stressed.”
But as young as she may be, Pempengco is not content on merely being a passenger of her trail-blazing career. She is slowly but surely taking the wheel. And for her upcoming album, she revealed her plans of shifting from a balladeer to something more current.
“The first single that I recorded, Fingerprint, falls more along the lines of R&B,” she told The Times. “It was written by Robbie Nevil who was behind Jordin Spark’s One Step at a Time and The Pussycat Dolls’ When I Grow Up. I hope that it becomes a hit. Personally, I think that it’s catchy and, lyrically, it’s for everyone.”
It also voices out Pempengco’s desire to break free from the typecasting that is slowly taking over her persona as an artist.
“For the album,” she told The Times, “I don’t want to have another Whitney Houston song. I don’t want people to hear my voice and say, ‘oh she’s the girl who sings Whitney Houston songs.’ I want them to know me for songs that are actually mine. I want to have my own identity as a performer.”
And as she said it with a serene sternness commendable for someone her age, one can tell that this “flush force of nature” will not be stopped from achieving her goals. It is true that at 16, she is too young for a lot of things. But as Pempengco found out the hard way, she is not too young to face life and everything that goes with it. And as she has proven from her time and time again, she is not too young to weather through them even with a voice that people thought was too big for someone her age.
By Angelo Cantera Reporter
Source link: Manila Times
Posted by cha_rade, submitted by bbelj